We often have it stuck in our heads that science communicators have only failed to speak to the religious right. But while issues of science-and-society are always tied up, in some ways, with politics, they’re not bound to any particular part of the spectrum.
If Saturn were as close as the moon. Sign me up.
Popularizations that hold up are most likely penned by actual experts who happen to write well.
They found that [the food pairing hypothesis] was true, at least when it came to Western cooking. North American and Western European cuisines, which share many of the same ingredients, both adhere to the food pairing hypothesis: Foods in the same recipe often have the same underlying molecular components. However, once we stray from these cuisines, the food pairing hypothesis breaks down. East Asian and Southern European recipes use ingredients that do not overlap in their flavor compounds, implying that these styles of cooking are in fact quantitatively distinct.
Red-green and yellow-blue are the so-called “forbidden colors.” Composed of pairs of hues whose light frequencies automatically cancel each other out in the human eye, they’re supposed to be impossible to see simultaneously.
I had no idea.
I was born in 1962 which was like the end of an era of breakthroughs. The moon walk, wow! That was exciting. Maybe it didn’t lead to anything, but we were all stunned. We saw it as a kid. I was like seven and thought “oh my god, this is awesome!” and you are like “science brought us this” and everyone was like “woah, science,” and then you have this long period of science not bringing that much and I think some of that status just went away. I can understand why.
Technology is fairly good at controlling external reality to promote real biological fitness, but it’s even better at delivering fake fitness—subjective cues of survival and reproduction without the real-world effects.
Unisys Weather. Just wanted to say I still love this website. Best in the business.
The powers that be in Las Vegas figured out something long before neuroscientists at two Duke University medical schools confirmed their ideas this week: Trying to make decisions while sleep-deprived can lead to a case of optimism.
Add in the usual required dose of skepticism required for science journalism, sure. I still think this is interesting and the risk-taking aspect seems to tie into both 1) late-night bouts of creativity and 2) survival situations. Both of which can make you feel a little psychotic in the moment and can be kind of horrifying in hindsight after you’ve regained your right mind.
Flights of Fancy: How birds (and bird-watchers) compute the behavior of a flock on the wing – American Scientist. Image from the STARFLAG project, INFM-CNR. I am reminded of Kevin Huizenga’s starlings once again.
This is so wonderful. We’re all living even further in the future than other people’s crazy dreams.
From a wish list of scientific advancements compiled by chemist and inventor Robert Boyle, who in 1662 discovered that the pressure and volume of a gas are inversely proportional, a property now known as Boyle’s Law. The list, which dates from the 1660s, is on display this month at the Royal Society of London, as part of the institution’s 350th anniversary celebration.
- The Prolongation of Life
- The Recovery of Youth, or at Least Some of the Marks of It, as New Teeth, New Hair Colour’d as in Youth
- The Art of Flying
- The Art of Continuing Long Under Water, and Exercising Functions Freely There
- The Cure of Wounds at a Distance
- The Cure of Diseases at a Distance or at Least by Transplantation
- The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions
- The Acceleration of the Production of Things out of Seed
- The Transmutation of Metalls
- The Making of Glass Malleable
- The Making Armor Light and Extremely Hard
- The Transmutation of Species in Mineralls, Animals, and Vegetables
- The Emulating of Fish Without Engines by Custome and Education Only
- The Practicable and Certain Way of Finding Longitudes
- The Use of Pendulums at Sea and in Journeys, and the Application of It to Watches
- A Ship to Saile with All Winds, and a Ship Not to Be Sunk
- Freedom from Necessity of Much Sleeping Exemplify’d by the Operations of Tea and What Happens in Mad-men
- Pleasing Dreams and Physicall Exercises Exemplify’d by the Egyptian Electuary and by the Fungus Mentioned by the French Author
- Great Strength and Agility of Body Exemplify’d by That of Frantick Epileptick and Hystericall Persons
- Varnishes Perfumable by Rubbing
- A Perpetuall Light
Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville invented the Dreamachine, which I first heard about at last week’s Film Love at Eyedrum. It uses a record player to spin a cylinder with patterns cut in it. With a light inside, it makes a strobe for drug-free psychedelia. I found an online Dreamachine that makes a similar effect. Move close to the monitor, close your eyes, and it’s good for a few seconds of trippy colors. Mind your epilepsy.
I usually like these annual collections because I can sample a bunch of authors I don’t know writing about topics I’m not too familiar with in periodicals I haven’t read much. The Best American Science Writing 2007 comes up a bit short on all counts, but here are the ones I liked…
A clear favorite for me is Atul Gawande‘s article about the childbirth industry, The Score. Women used to die in labor at amazing rates. Even in the 1930s about 1 of every 150 mothers died. But ever since Virginia Apgar invented what’s now known as the Apgar score—basically a 0-10 rating on how healthy a baby comes out, based on the first 5 minutes of observation—mortality rates for parent and child have dropped steadily. Gawande talks in kind of squeamish, horrifying detail about how delivering babies has changed and the different technologies (prayer, forceps, C-sections) and maneuvers that we’ve developed. It’s really great. I almost never like writing about biology or medicine, but looking at list of Gawande’s writing on his website, it turns out I’ve enjoyed just about all of his that I read.
My next favorite is Being There. Imagine for a second your spouse or parent or sibling or friend were dying. Like right now. In the emergency room. Would you want to be there as doctors tried to resuscitate him? And should the hospital allow you to watch what is usually a stressful, brutal, and unsuccessful effort? Jerome Groopman writes about the dilemma of “family presence,” and it’s one of those things that’s just cool to read about because I’d never thought much about it before.
Yes, that’s 2 (two) medicine-related articles that I enjoyed.
Manifold Destiny was a cool article about the reclusive Grigori Perlman, the guy who proved the Poincar?© conjecture and thereby dismissed a problem that mainstream mathematicians had been working on for a century. There’s some cool personalities and professional intrigue here, and it was a nice break from the bio/ medicine/ health/ human interest articles in the rest of the book. Written by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber.
Lastly, Oliver Sacks wrote Stereo Sue, a woman who didn’t have binocular vision, so everything looked flat. After surgery and some long-term eye therapy, she finally started to see fully in three dimensions:
I went back to my car and happened to glance at the steering wheel. It had ‘popped out’ from the dashboard. I closed one eye, then the other, then looked with both eyes again, and the steering wheel looked different. I decided that the light from the setting sun was playing tricks on me and drove home. But the next day I got up, did the eye exercises, and got into the car to drive to work. When I looked at the rear-view mirror, it had popped out from the windshield.